Christopher Nolan is in a class alone. Through a series of strategic moves, Nolan has found a way to make thought-provoking and experimental films into massive, crowd-pleasing blockbusters. Whenever frustrated auteurs rail against the current state of cinema and how much it prioritizes spectacle over substance, they have to put an asterisk next to Nolan's name, as he's seemingly reconciled both perspectives.
Aside from marrying two disparate aims on a creative level, Nolan also gets respect for his insistence on relying on practical effects whenever possible. Instead of phoning it in with a CGI version of the "rotating room fight" from Inception, Nolan just went ahead and built a rotating room. For his new biopic Oppenheimer—based on the famed Manhattan Project scientist J. Robert Oppenheimer—Nolan decided that he didn't want to use CGI to mimic a nuclear blast. So he just went ahead and found a way to replicate the effect practically.
The director's forthcoming biopic of Robert Oppenheimer, one of the pioneers of nuclear weapons during the second world war, involves a scene recreating the first atomic detonation in New Mexico in July 1945, a month before the US dropped similar bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima, hastening the end of the conflict.
"Recreating the Trinity test without the use of computer graphics was a huge challenge to take on," Nolan toldTotal Film.
"Andrew Jackson – my visual effects supervisor, I got him on board early on — was looking at how we could do a lot of the visual elements of the film practically, from representing quantum dynamics and quantum physics to the Trinity test itself … there were huge practical challenges."